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United States v. Payne

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 23, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN W. PAYNE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GLORIA M. NAVARRO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Ryan W. Payne's (“Payne”) Motion to Disqualify Jury Panel and Send a New Questionnaire, (ECF No. 2639). The Government filed a Response and Defendant filed a Reply.[1] For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion.

         I. DISCUSSION

         In Payne's instant Motion, he asserts that “the jury questionnaire designed by the court, which can be filled out only via internet does not allow for a proper cross section of the community.” (Mot. to Disqualify 11:4-5, ECF No. 2639). Additionally, Payne argues that the statement of the case “listed in the questionnaire fails to address the information as mere allegations in an indictment, ” the “lack of instructions concerning the filing [sic] out of the indictment fails to allow counsel to properly ascertain the reasons why significant portions of questionnaires are left unanswered, ” and that the questions “asked of the panel have a significant government bias.” (Id. 11:6-10). The Government asserts that Payne “provides no legal authority . . . except for general exhortations to the Sixth Amendment which doesn't address jury questionnaires at all.” (Resp. 3:20-21, ECF No. 2719). The Court will address each of these concerns in turn.

         A. Methodology for Those Without Computers

         Payne alleges that “[i]t is not clear what instructions were provided on the actual questionnaire as to the availability of a hard copy or the need to pay for the postage of the return of these questionnaires.” (Mot. to Disqualify 5:25-6:1). He continues that “[w]ithout the option of being able to fill out a hard copy, . . . individuals who do not have internet access either at work or home (low income demographic) as well as older individuals not comfortable with computer technology, were excluded from this jury pool.” (Id. 6:1-5).

         However, every prospective juror received a letter prior to filling out the questionnaire that stated:

If you are unable to access the internet to complete this process, please call the Jury Administrator's Office at (702) 464-5600, option #0, to make an appointment to respond to the Questionnaire on the Office's computers. . . .
Rather than require you to come to the Courthouse to answer such questions in public, however, I've determined it is sufficient for all prospective jurors to complete the Questionnaire either online or in writing as explained above.

         Moreover, for those jurors that did not have access to a computer or did not feel comfortable using a computer, the Court provides two computers that are set up in the jury office where individuals could come in and complete the questionnaire. For this questionnaire, there were not any jurors who requested a paper copy be mailed to them. In the previous two trials, however, there were individuals who completed a paper copy. There, the Court mailed a paper copy to these individuals with a prepaid return envelope to return the questionnaire; they were never required to pay for their own postage.

         The general methodology the Court used was as follows: the Clerk's Office first mailed the letter mentioned supra to all the jurors' home addresses requesting them to respond to the questionnaire. For the individuals who did not respond within the time frame provided, the Clerk's Office sent emails with the letter attached and a link to the questionnaire. If the individuals did not have an e-mail address, the Clerk's Office called them with the phone numbers provided. If an individual failed to complete the questionnaire after the first two attempts to contact them, the Clerk's Office called each individual for a third and final attempt. There were only thirty-seven jurors that failed to complete the questionnaire. Because of this process, Payne's Motion is denied concerning the methodology for potential jurors without computers to complete the questionnaire.

         B. Statement of the Case

         Turning to his next objection, Payne argues that “the statement of facts in the questionnaire presumes facts that the government must present and prove at trial as facts that have already been proved.” (Mot. to Disqualify 7:3-4). Specifically, Payne asserts that the Court “failed to use the word ‘alleged' when describing the conduct involving ‘the unlawful grazing on federal public land.'” (Id. 8:24-25).

         The Government responded that Payne “provides no authority for this proposition” and that “the statement correctly [indicates] that the charges were allegations and that the defendants have pleaded not guilty.” (Resp. 5:5-6). In compiling the questionnaire, the Court reviewed all proposed statements of the case and constructed the one provided in order to be as succinct and clear as possible. Even so, as the Government pointed out, “any jurors actually chosen for service will be instructed as to ...


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